Plumbers (the name comes from the Latin word for the lead used to make pipes in the past) are amongst the most sought-after trades. On hand to help makeover your bathroom or kitchen, get your central heating back from the dead or find and clear that blockage that’s in danger of flooding the street, they’re in demand for a wide number of household jobs.

Use this guide to help you find a local plumber in the event of an emergency or if you’re planning improvements to your property.

What they do

Whether it’s installing your new bathroom or kitchen fittings, repairing your central heating system or preventing a leak from flooding your home, a skilled plumber can find themselves working almost anywhere around your home.

The long list of skills they need to master includes:

  • Installing water, drainage and heating systems
  • Finding and fixing leaks and faults
  • Servicing gas and oil-fired central heating systems and radiators
  • Putting in domestic appliances like showers, cookers, gas fires and washing machines
  • Servicing air-conditioning and ventilation units
  • Dealing with emergency call-outs like boiler breakdowns or blocked drains
  • Fitting weather-proof materials, joints and flashings to roofs, chimneys and walls
  • Installing and servicing solar-powered heating systems

What they charge

On average, a plumber will charge anything from £40 to £80 per hour to carry out work, excluding materials. However, if it’s an emergency call-out situation they will charge more. Most plumbers will be able to give you a fixed price for a particular job such as installing a new shower or fitting a new central heating boiler. A few example prices for typical plumbing jobs are:

  • Fit a new bath (labour only) – £180
  • Replace a kitchen mixer tap (including tap) – £120
  • Fix or unblock a toilet – £80
  • Fix a burst water pipe – £90
  • Replace a hot water tank – £500
  • Power flush standard gas central heating system (10 radiators) – £250

What to ask

The most important thing to ask a plumber is whether they are qualified for the job. If they are carrying out any work involving gas, they must be Gas Safe registered. Once you’ve checked they are, a professional plumber won’t mind if you also ask the following questions:

  • Are you insured?
  • Which parts and materials are included in the price?
  • How have you worked out the estimate (can they provide a breakdown)?
  • How soon can you get here (important in an emergency)?
  • If you’re using subcontractors, are they registered and qualified?
  • Will work meet building regulations and will they self-certify if so?

Trades to trust

The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) certifies and licenses its members to work to minimum standards and operate safely and professionally. Only those plumbing and heating businesses that have passed their quality assurance criteria can join.

The WaterSafe scheme is a national accreditation body funded by the water industry which checks and approves plumbers to give you extra reassurance that they’re qualified and competent.

The law

All plumbers working with gas must be registered with Gas Safe.

In England and Wales, building regulations mean you should inform your local authority when a heat producing appliance like a boiler or fire is installed in a property. Registered engineers can notify through Gas Safe Register. Once complete, a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate should arrive via post within 10-15 working days. Keep it in a safe place as it’ll be useful should you decide to sell your home or re-mortgage. Different rules apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In many cases, work on new and existing plumbing systems needs to be notified to, and approved by, the local water supplier before it can begin. This is to make sure it meets the water supply regulations and byelaws designed to keep drinking water supplies safe and healthy.

Ready to hire?

3 is the magic number

As always, try and get three quotes from three different plumbers to ensure you pay a fair price for the job.

Certification and references

Don’t be shy about asking for any relevant certification, proof of public liability insurance and references or photos from previous jobs. If the plumber is trustworthy and competent, they’ll be pleased (and proud) to show you both.